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8 Words That Are Older Than You Think

few

[fyoo] /fyu/
adjective, fewer, fewest.
1.
not many but more than one:
Few artists live luxuriously.
noun
2.
(used with a plural verb) a small number or amount:
Send me a few.
3.
the few, a special, limited number; the minority:
That music appeals to the few.
pronoun
4.
(used with a plural verb) a small number of persons or things:
A dozen people volunteered, but few have shown up.
Idioms
5.
few and far between, at widely separated intervals; infrequent:
In Nevada the towns are few and far between.
6.
quite a few, a fairly large number; many:
There were quite a few interesting things to do.
Origin
900
before 900; Middle English fewe, Old English fēawe; cognate with Gothic fawai; akin to Latin paucus few, paulus little, pauper poor, Greek paûros little, few
Related forms
overfew, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for few
  • In-flight brought some pleasant surprises and also a few more kinks.
  • But the process of building the new garden turned into an adventure with a few unforeseen twists.
  • If rain doesn't do the job for you, moisten the bed thoroughly a few days before you intend to plant.
  • As the last few years demonstrate, financial innovations can be used as tools of economic destruction.
  • But in the past few years the web has hastened the decline.
  • Profit would come from selling a lot of them cheaply, not servicing a few at a great price.
  • We are currently updating the site and should be back within a few hours.
  • The past few weeks, however, have been one of those rare phases.
  • few people register because the legal period for doing so is short and comes many months before elections.
  • The few existing dirt roads between settlements are littered with potholes, some so big that cars disappear into them.
British Dictionary definitions for few

few

/fjuː/
determiner
1.
  1. a small number of; hardly any: few men are so cruel
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural): many are called but few are chosen
2.
(preceded by a)
  1. a small number of: a few drinks
  2. (as pronoun; functioning as plural): a few of you
3.
(informal) a good few, several
4.
few and far between
  1. at great intervals; widely spaced
  2. not abundant; scarce
5.
have a few, have a few too many, to consume several (or too many) alcoholic drinks
6.
(informal) not a few, quite a few, several
noun
7.
the few, a small number of people considered as a class: the few who fell at Thermopylae Compare many (sense 4)
Derived Forms
fewness, noun
Word Origin
Old English fēawa; related to Old High German fao little, Old Norse fār little, silent
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for few
adj.

Old English feawe (plural; contracted to fea) "few, seldom, even a little," from Proto-Germanic *faw-, from PIE root *pau- (1) "few, little" (cf. Latin paucus "few, little," paullus "little," parvus "little, small," pauper "poor;" Greek pauros "few, little," pais (genitive paidos) "child;" Latin puer "child, boy," pullus "young animal;" Oscan puklu "child;" Sanskrit potah "a young animal," putrah "son;" Old English fola "young horse;" Old Norse fylja "young female horse;" Old Church Slavonic puta "bird;" Lithuanian putytis "young animal, young bird"). Always plural in Old English.

Phrase few and far between attested from 1660s. Unusual ironic use in quite a few "many" (1883), earlier a good few (1828). The noun is late 12c., fewe, from the adjective.

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. [Winston Churchill, 1940]

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with few
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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